Chairman, Committee of Inquiry into Psychosurgery, 23/02/1977 - 09/06/1977
Member, New South Wales Medical Board, 1979 - 1981
Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 13/07/1981 - 01/11/1987
Judge, Federal Court of Australia, 02/11/1987 - 27/11/1998
Additional Judge, Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, 25/11/1987 - 17/11/1998
President, Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal, 1990 - 26/11/1998
Acting Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 31/05/1999 - 26/11/2003
Acting Judge of Appeal, Court of Appeal, New South Wales, 31/05/1999 - 26/11/2003
Michael Leader Foster was born on 27 November 1928, the son of L and D Foster. He was educated at Mosman Church of England Preparatory School, the Sydney Church of England Grammar School and the University of Sydney (BA 1949, LLB 1st Class Honours 1953, LLM 1975). In 1951 he won the George and Matilda Harris Scholarship No.1 for proficiency in the subjects of Property, Torts, Contracts and Mercantile Law and the E M Mitchell Prize for Contracts and Mercantile Law. In 1952 he won the Pitt Cobbett Prize for Constitutional Law I and II and was runner up to G Kolts for the Pitt Cobbett Prize for Public International Law. In 1953 he won the John George Dalley Prize for General Proficiency in the Final Year and shared with D T Panckhurst the Sir John Peden Memorial Prize. (1)
Foster was admitted as a solicitor on 8 May 1953 and practised out of 141 Elizabeth Street, Sydney. On 28 October 1955 he was called to the New South Wales Bar and his chambers were initially at 142 Phillip Street, from 1956 at 180 Phillip Street and from 1973 at 174 Phillip Street. He had a wide and diverse practice in the Common Law, including defamation, and in the Commercial Causes jurisdiction. He was made a Queen's Counsel in December 1974. He was a vice-president of the New South Wales Bar Association from 1978/79 to 1980/81. By 1982 he had been admitted to the Bars of the Australian Capital Territory and Papua New Guinea. (2)
Foster was chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into Psychosurgery appointed by the New South Wales Minister for Health on 23 February 1977. The Committee examined the usefulness of psychosurgery and whether Rozelle Hospital used overseas best practice when conducting such surgery. Psychosurgery, or surgery on the brain to minimise the symptoms of mental illness, usually destroys part of the brain. The Committee reported on 9 June 1977 and did not criticise the hospital or the procedure. However it recommended that psychosurgery should be a measure of last resort and involve both informed patient consent and the consent of a legally authorised board of review. From 1979 to 1981, Foster was also a member of the New South Wales Medical Board. (3)
Foster's judicial career covered New South Wales, Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. He was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 13 July 1981. He sat primarily in the commercial and administrative jurisdictions. He resigned on 1 November 1987 to take up an appointment to the Federal Court of Australia. He was a Judge of the Federal Court of Sydney from 2 November 1987 to 27 November 1998. As well, he was an Additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory from 25 November 1987 to 27 November 1998. He was president of the Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal from 1990 to 26 November 1998. From 31 May 1999 he held five commissions as an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and an Acting Judge of Appeal of the Court of Appeal. His commissions lasted till 26 November 2003. (4)
Since retiring as a Judge, Foster has been an arbitrator and mediator. In 2002-2003 he was chairman of the arbitration panel set up to resolve disputes for the 31st (2000-2003) America's Cup. On 1 June 2005 he was appointed convenor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Independent Complaints Review Panel for a five year term. (5)
Foster and his wife Ruth have one son and two daughters. (6)
1. Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, 1980, p.322; 1983, p.313; 1985, p.313; 1990, pp.448-9; 1994, p.564; 1997, p.599; 2008, p.777; University of Sydney Calendar, Exam Results 1943-47, pp.224-5, 231, 346, 352; 1953 Supplement, pp.203-4; 1954 Supplement, pp.162, 210, 212-3, 307, 363; 1955, p.1036, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/index.php (cited 27 May and 22 June 2008); 'Alumni Sidneienses - University Archives - The University of Sydney', http://www.bull.usyd.edu.au/as/FMPro (cited 1 October 2008).
2. Barrister and Solicitors Admission Boards; NRS 13667, Roll of Solicitors, 29 August 1952 - 12 February 1962; Reel 2147, p.4; Barrister and Solicitors Admission Boards; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 29 July 1955 - 28 July 1972; Reel 2147, p.1; New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1954, p.99; 1956, pp.81, 104; 1957, p.81; 1974, p.91; 1975, p.91; 1981, p.96; Australian Law Journal, Vol.55, p.707 (September 1981); 'Bar Councillors 1970-1980', New South Wales Bar Association, http://www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/about/history/bclist1970_1980.php (cited 1 October 2008); 'Bar Councillors 1980-1990', New South Wales Bar Association, http://www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/about/history/bclist1980_1990.php (cited 1 October 2008).
3. 'Report of the Committee of Inquiry into psychosurgery', NSW Parliament, Joint Volume of Papers presented to the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, 1976-77-78, Vol.10, p.709-712; D H Borchardt, Checklist of Royal Commissions Select Committees of Parliament and Boards of Inquiry, Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, 1960-1980 and South Australia, 1970-1980, Bundoora, Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, 1986, p.220; 'Psychosurgery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia', http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychosurgery (cited 2 October 2008); Who's Who in Australia, op.cit..
4. New South Wales Law Reports, Sydney, Law Book Company Ltd, 1983, Vol.3, p.ix; Vol.11, 1987, p.ix; Australian Law Journal, Vol.55, p.707 (September 1981); Vol.61, p.823 (December 1987); Federal Court of Australia, Annual Report 1998-1999, http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/pdfsrtfs_c/chapter1_98.pdf (cited 1 October 2008); 'Chronological Index of the Judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory', http://www.courts.act.gov.au/supreme/contant/about_us_chronological_index.asp?textonly=no (cited 19 September 2008); Federal Police Force Disciplinary Tribunal, Annual Report 1998-1999, http://www.fpdt.gov.au/pdfsrtfs/fpdt_ar98.html cited 1 October 2008; New South Wales Law Report, op.cit., Vol.49, 1999-2000, p.ix; Vol.50, 2000-2001, p.ix; Vol.52, 2000-2001, p.x; Vol.55, 2002, p.ix; Vol.57, 2002-2003, p.ix; Supreme Court of New South Wales, Annual Review - The Judges of the Court, 2001, 2002, 2003, p.10, http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/supreme_court/ll_sc.nsf/pages/SCO_annrev (cited 10 September 2008).
5. John Faire et al, Arbitration in the America's Cup: the XXXI America's Cup Arbitration Panel and its decisions, Kluger Law International, 2003, http://books.google.com.au (cited 1 October 2008); Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Annual Report 2005, p.20, http://www.abc.net.au/corp/annual_reports/ar05/pdf/ABC_AR05_Section1.pdf (cited 1 October 2008).
6. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.